Boeing, Honeywell prove Wi-Fi can interfere with airplane equipment

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Boeing and Honeywell Avionics claim that display units used by pilots can experience “blanking” when exposed to Wi-Fi equipment operating at “elevated power levels”. Fortunately, current onboard airplane Wi-Fi does not operate at “elevated power levels” so no worries there, but could a lot of Wi-Fi devices operating at once have the same effect?

Per the report from FlightGlobal:

Honeywell Phase 3 Display Units (DUs) have shown themselves susceptible to “blanking” during airline electro magnetic interference (EMI) certification testing of wireless broadband systems (Wi-Fi) on various Boeing 737NG airplanes, prompting Boeing to cease linefit installs of in-flight connectivity systems across its portfolio, including widebody aircraft.

These display units are ones used by pilots, not the ones used for in-flight entertainment, so the concern it warranted. The “blanking” was momentary, but still, no one wants to hear that a screen in the cockpit went blank for a moment. The “blanking” was observed in ground tests, not in flight nor in service. The problem was not severe enough to merit discontinuing existing onboard Wi-Fi, but they are holding off further installs.

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The report seems to disprove some people’s belief that radios cannot interfere with airplane equipment, making it unnecessary to switch handheld devices off during takeoff and landing. Any interference from a single handheld device probably is completely negligible, but if Wi-Fi operating at “elevated power levels” can blank a screen, I could certainly believe a few dozen or a hundred devices operating at once could create some level of interference.

Via ZDNet Australia

Comments

  1. GoodThings2Life says

    Mythbusters did an episode a year or two ago that proved the exact opposite with a number of radio frequencies. I tend to believe them more to be honest. I have to wonder whether some additional factor is involved here.

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